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Renter or no renter, these are some good tips

Posted by admin on Feb 27th, 2009
Feb 27

I signed up a long while ago for my daily dose of Treehugger newsletter goodness. Most of the stories I find are interesting, informative and useful. Occasionally I find a story that is particularly well suited for the founding basis behind my enviroblog and I feel I need to share it with those who may be regular readers. This article highlights 22 ways for renters to reduce their overall consumption. This is especially important for renters since they don’t have many options to alter their residence to be more efficient, but it really applies to anyone – whether they own *or* rent.

Unfortunately I haven’t had much of a chance to keep up with my eco-updates lately. Things have been pretty crazy with the bathroom remodel, the job search, the weather (who says it never rains in Southern California!?!?), and guests. I start a new job next week so I don’t foresee much of a change in the frequency of updates but I will do my best. I still have a couple of projects that are still waiting in their final stages to be completed so I will hopefully be able to get them done soon.

The christening of the crapper

Posted by admin on Jan 30th, 2009
Jan 30

It’s been nearly a month since I started the unavoidable demolition and remodeling of our guest bathroom, which had been brought on by a water leak in the wall. The plumbing has been fixed, the walls have been put back up, the new fixtures are mostly installed, and finally – last night – we put the new Toto Aquia II dual flush toilet in. In a house that currently has 5 people and only 1 toilet, this was a BIG deal. We were all fighting to be the first to use it.

It was surprisingly easy to install, considering there are lots of complaints in various forums about how hard it is to get it to seal properly to the flange which can cause it to leak. I even read replies from plumbers on some forums who say they charge double to install these toilets. We didn’t have any trouble at all.

My wife was the first to have the honor of using it, while we waited patiently outside the door with anticipation of her review of the experience. A resounding thumbs up from her.

I’ll update with pictures and a bit more of an in depth review after it’s been tested a little more thoroughtly. For now, though, we did notice that the dual flushing mechanism is going to be something we’ll need to get used to. For the light flush, if we just push and release the button then there isn’t much water released into the bowl. If we hold the button down then it will release all of the water into the bowl – all 1.6 litres of it. We must be doing something wrong, but again, I’ll give a better review after the break-in period is complete.

Generator exerbike 2000

Posted by admin on Jan 14th, 2009
Jan 14

It seems that the projects I have planned always take a lot longer than I expect them to. It’s not that I’m not motivated to build these things, it’s more a matter of time and resources usually. For example, two weeks ago I heard water leaking in the wall of our guest bathroom. After opening the wall and finding/fixing the issue we needed to then replace the tiles that I had to take out in order to get to the leak. This turned into a demo of the shower area, which turned into a demo of the rest of the bathroom, which turned into rerouting some plumbing and vent tubes. Now, a little over two weeks later, we are finally starting to put everything back together again. Whew.

On a somewhat positive note, I accidentally broke the toilet when a huge chunk of concrete and tile fell from the ceiling (the ENTIRE bathroom was covered in tile and about 1.5 inches of this concrete type stuff). The positive part is that we replaced it with a new dual flush toilet from Toto. Once it’s installed and has been taken for a few “test drives” I’ll give my review. I’ve read installation is extremely difficult on tile – like what we are doing – and that the flush is powerful enough on the low setting for most of what needs to get flushed. So good and bad, we’ll see.

That is just one example of unexpected things coming up which prevent me from working on my eco projects, there have been quite a few lately. Fortunately I have been able to find some time to finally put together my generator bike that I mentioned here and here, currently dubbed the GB2000. I used an old bike I had laying around. I pulled off the back tire, had to do some magical alteration and rerouting of the the rear tension gear, got a lawn tractor v-belt, and attached it all to a 12v 4.5amp water pump motor. I still have to figure out what to use for a regulator (I can get over 24v of output pretty easily without a regulator) and also some kind of diode setup so the power flow is only out to the batteries and not in to the motor. I’m leaning towards using a controller for an electric scooter, which also has a battery charger hookup. Most of them are 24v or higher, which is fine since it would allow me to charge two batteries at a time in series.

Here are pictures of the bike. I used some scrap 2×4’s I had and bought some deck joist ties from the local hardware store to hold the back of the bike up. It’s because of the joist ties that I had to reroute the tension gear.

View of the deck joist and the chain tensioner

View of the deck joist and the chain tensioner

Greening up your holiday cards

Posted by admin on Dec 9th, 2008
Dec 9

I’m sure many of you have seen this product before, but I recently came across it again and thought it was the perfect time of the year to mention it. It’s called Grow-a-note. It’s really a great idea – you send a Grow-a-note card to a friend or a loved one, and once they are done with it they can “plant” it in thier garden, wait a few weeks, and then get part two of the gift – a bouquet of wild flowers.

The Grow-a-note cards are made with 100% recycled “post consumer waste” and are embedded with the wildflower seeds. The site says the cards have clear instructions printed on the back of the card on what to do with it once it is ready to be planted.

Can a Blackberry help save the environment?

Posted by admin on Nov 26th, 2008
Nov 26

That may be a bit of an overly optimistic question, but let me explain. I guess in a technical sense that a Blackberry can be considered a “computer”, but it’s hard to think of something that fits in the palm of my hand as such. I first started using a Blackberry at my last job – as the oncall company phone – but haven’t really explored its capabilities until recently. And there are plenty of capabilities it can provide – so much so that I could even forsee using it for as much as 75% of my non-work computing, and possibly even as much as 25% of my work computing. Therein lies the possibility of the Blackberry being green for me.

In my off hours I mostly use a laptop for email, web browsing, and blogging. For work I use a desktop for a lot more than that, of course. I have found that there are a lot of tools available for the Blackberry that can accommodate many of these tasks in at least a basic form. For example, I downloaded and installed the Google mobile tools, which will sync my Gmail and Google Calendar automatically, allows me to check news feeds, gives me easy access to my Google docs, and many other things. I also configured the built in Blackberry email client to check my work email automatically. I installed MidpSSH to use to connect to work and home servers – which is a bit tedious but very effective when I’m not around a computer and an emergency comes up. I’ve also used the IM client which works with Yahoo, MSN, GTalk, and a couple of others. Another great feature is the phone is WiFi enabled, which will help to speed up downloads and page loads when surfing the web when I connect to my access point at home or at a hotspot.

Our cell phones are so customizable these days. What all this means, for me, is that I could power off my computers a lot more and not be disconnected from many of the things I need or want to do. Here’s something to consider – when someone seems to be addicted to their “Crackberry” maybe they are actually helping the environment by cutting back on greenhouse emissions? Hmm.

There are a lot of tools out there for our phones, and not just Blackberrys, that can free us up from being stuck behind a desk. What tools/applications do you use on your phone?

Minor solar oven setback

Posted by admin on Nov 21st, 2008
Nov 21

A little over a week ago we had a few days of high winds, high temperatures, and lots of devastating fires. It seems that the people who live in the north and eastern hills of the valley are always being ravaged by wild fires. Being in the valley it is always a concern that we might be affected by the fires and have something happen to our home as well, but since our house has been standing since 1952 without (fire) incident then I feel relatively assured that we are safe. If we could only find a way to immune ourselves from earthquakes….

Unfortunately my solar oven suffered a bit of a set back due to the winds, but it should be fixable with some spare Plexi-Glass I have from a previous experiment. I should be able to use it as a replacement if I so choose to use the same window frame.

High winds and an unstable bike next to glass = not a good thing

High winds and an unstable bike next to glass = not a good thing

Idle power control – phase 2 complete

Posted by admin on Nov 18th, 2008
Nov 18

So phase 2 of the idle power consumption testing is complete, and with some surprising results. It seems that the X10 appliance module didn’t consume hardly any electricity going by the Kill-a-watt numbers. Unfortunately the time measurements aren’t exactly the same, but they are close enough to get a fairly conclusive result.

phase 1 test results (XBox plugged into an outlet):
Test hours = 172
kW used = 0.30

phase 2 results (XBox plugged into an X10 module):
Test hours = 168
kW used = 0.30

If I had let the test run another 4.5 hours to mimic the phase 1 test then it *might* have added another 0.01 or 0.02 kW maximum. So the overall consumption of the X10 module is actually, and surprisingly, negligible.

Phase 3 will involve the XBox plugged into the X10 module, and the module will be turned off for several hours a day to see how much electricity is actually conserved. It is starting to look like it will be more than I initially expected, at least going by the phase 2 results.

Fun use of an old incandescent

Posted by admin on Nov 13th, 2008
Nov 13

I came across this video today of what someone did with an old incandescent light bulb and was intrigued. I just had to share it. It may not always be much more enviro-friendly, depending on the fuel used, than using the bulb to light your home, but it is a pretty neat trick – and it looks like a fun way to recycle them.

Incandescent Lamp Hack!Click here for another funny movie.

The great water controversy

Posted by admin on Nov 13th, 2008
Nov 13

About a week ago I put up a poll asking what would be the best way to contain your morning beverage at work. The results so far haven’t been too widely spread, but since there isn’t really anything scientific about the poll, I thought I’d go to an expert and ask them. Who do I turn to when I have a question? Why Ed Begley, Jr. He has an “Ask Ed” section on his site. Well, this is the response I got back:

“Ceramic mug – just don’t WASTE the water when you wash it out. Water a house or office plant with it. do something with the water to not waste it and you have a win-win. ed”

Okay, I can respect that, and that’s *kind of* the answer I expected. The problem I have with the response is that there are limited uses for “gray” water in the office. The plants, which there are very few of in our office, are maintained by a professional service. If even a quarter of the people started using their gray water to water the plants we’d probably kill them from over watering. I’m trying to think of other uses for the water in an office, but I’m drawing a blank. I am slowly starting my plant collection at my desk, but that will take some time for them to mature. Once that happens though, then I will definitely use as much of the water as I can. In the mean time, my coffee cup will just have to continue looking like this:

What can you do with the gray water produced by washing out your cup at the office?

What can you do with the gray water produced by washing out your cup at the office?

In the mean time, the poll is still up and running, so feel free to submit your vote!

Green kid cuisine

Posted by admin on Nov 11th, 2008
Nov 11

Looking for some good food alternatives to feed your offspring? Here’s a site that has some quick, easy, and healthy vegetarian alternatives to hamburgers or canned soup.

I suppose I should divulge it was written by my wife back when she went vegetarian for a while. She still keeps her pledge to keep “pork off your fork”, but she just couldn’t give up chicken.

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